Administrator Mode and User Mode

Microsoft Surface units can run in one of two modes: administrator mode or user mode. The modes determine what appears on the Microsoft Surface display and whether the Microsoft Windows user interface will be suppressed or available. You can easily switch between these two modes through the Microsoft Surface user interface.

This topic includes the following sections:

Administrator Mode vs. User Mode

The following table describes the differences between administrator mode and user mode. Mode profiles determine what specific changes that Surface Shell makes when you log on in one of these modes. For more information, see Mode Profiles.


Mode Description

Administrator mode

Administrator mode gives you access to the Windows Vista user interface and functionality and to Microsoft Surface functionality through desktop shortcuts. Both commercial and developer units are configured to start in administrator mode after you first set up the unit and show the Windows Vista user interface and the logon screen. You can run and test a Microsoft Surface application by starting it from Microsoft Visual C# 2008 Express Edition (developer units only) or by using the Surface Input and Surface Shell tools, which are available as desktop shortcuts. Surface Input enables touch input, and Surface Shell starts the active attract application and Launcher on the Microsoft Surface display, while the Windows desktop runs in the background or on an external monitor, if you have set one up.

You can also use administrator mode to directly or remotely administer the Microsoft Surface unit and Windows Vista functionality.

The Windows Vista user interface does not react to touch, so you must use a keyboard when you administer a Microsoft Surface unit directly. For more information about how to connect an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse to a Microsoft Surface unit, see Installing a Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor.

When you log on to a Microsoft Surface unit for the first time, you enter administrator mode.

User mode

User mode displays the Microsoft Surface user interface and is designed for Microsoft Surface units in venues, without a logon screen. In user mode, the Windows Vista user interface is suppressed, including all User Account Control prompts, all Windows Firewall prompts, access to Windows Task Manager, and automatic updates. In user mode, users see the Microsoft Surface user interface that you configure, including the following:

  • The active attract application

  • Launcher

  • Registered Microsoft Surface applications

Developers should use administrator mode for general testing and troubleshooting during application development, and then switch to user mode as a final step. For issues that you cannot reproduce in user mode, turn on user mode troubleshooting by taking the steps in the following "To enable troubleshooting in user mode" procedure.

When the Microsoft Surface unit enters user mode, it logs on Windows Vista by using a specific Microsoft Surface Modes and Profiles called the user mode account. By default, this account is the TableUser user account. TableUser is a standard user account and minimizes the ability of users to make any serious changes to the Microsoft Surface unit. If you want the user mode session to run under a different user account, you can create that account through Windows Vista and use the SurfUser tool to tell the Microsoft Surface unit to use that account while in user mode.

For more information about the TableUser account, see Administrator Mode vs. User Mode.

Do not delete the TableUser user account or change the account user name, even if you do not use the TableUser account as a user mode account.

To switch from user mode to administrator mode

  1. Connect a keyboard and mouse to the I/O connections on the Microsoft Surface unit.

  2. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL, and then click Log off.

  3. Log on by using an administrator account. (For more information about administrator accounts, see Administrator and User Mode Accounts.)

    You can also switch from administrator mode to user mode by using the ModeSwitcher command-line tool. For more information about how to use this tool in a script, see ModeSwitcher Tool.

To enable troubleshooting in user mode

  1. Connect a keyboard and mouse to the I/O connections on the Microsoft Surface unit.

  2. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL, and then click Log off.

  3. Log on by using an administrator account. The Windows desktop appears.

  4. Double-click the Enter User Mode shortcut.

    The Do you want to log off and enter user mode? dialog box appears.

  5. Select the Enable troubleshooting and debugging in user mode? check box.

    For developer units, this check box is selected by default. For commercial units, this check box is cleared by default.

  6. Click Yes.

    The Entering User Mode progress dialog box appears while Surface Shell updates the user debug mode profile registry key settings and Group Policy settings.

Windows Desktop in Administrator Mode

When you log on to a Microsoft Surface unit as an administrator, it displays a customized Windows desktop.

Windows desktop in administrator mode

The Windows desktop contains the following Microsoft Surface-specific shortcuts:


Shortcut Description
Ambient Light Indicator icon

1. Ambient Light Indicator Tool checks the ambient light conditions on the Microsoft Surface unit by displaying red dots for areas on the screen that have harsh lighting and green dots for areas on the screen that have satisfactory lighting. If red dots appear, you can adjust the lighting in the room until as many green dots as possible appear on the screen. Like the calibration tool, the Ambient Light Indicator tool is most effective when you use it locally. If you use Remote Desktop to run the Ambient Light Indicator tool, you will need someone located by the unit and you will need to tell them exactly how they should adjust the room lighting based on your recommendation.

calibrate Vision System icon

2. Calibrate Vision System opens the calibration tool which enables you to recalibrate the Microsoft Surface cameras. The calibration tool is most effective when you use it locally. However, you can run basic calibration if you have someone to place the calibration board over the unit during the process. For more information about calibration, see Remotely Calibrating the Microsoft Surface Vision System. For more information about how to remotely calibrate a Microsoft Surface unit, see Calibrate Vision System Tool.

You must exit Surface Input before you run the calibration tool. To exit, locate the SurfaceInput icon in the taskbar, right-click it, and then click Exit.

Enter User Mode icon

3. Enter User Mode automatically logs you off as administrator and logs on to the Microsoft Surface unit by using the current user mode account, shifting the unit into user mode (in which users can interact with the attract application and Launcher).

Set Up Monitors icon

4. (Available on developer Microsoft Surface units only) Set Up Monitors configures the Microsoft Surface unit after you connect an external monitor. For more information about how to set up an external monitor, see Installing a Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor.

Surface Input icon

5. Surface Input provides Microsoft Surface touch functionality while you are logged on administrator mode. When Surface Input is enabled, a Surface Input icon appears in the notification area (to the right of the taskbar) that indicates if it is running. You can use Surface Input to test the unit setup and configuration or to test an application by starting it from Visual C# 2008 (on a developer unit). To disable Surface Input, right-click the Surface Input icon, and then click Stop.

Surface Shell icon

6. Surface Shell replicates user mode without leaving administrator mode so that you can test and debug applications with Launcher. Use Surface Shell together with Surface Input to test that an application works correctly with Surface Shell. That is, check that the application displays in and can be started from Launcher and that your application works properly with the Microsoft Surface software and user interface. When Surface Shell is running, a Surface Shell window appears in the taskbar. To close Surface Shell, right-click the window, and then click Close.

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